Streptococcal A, or strep A, is a type of bacteria that can cause several severe illnesses in humans, including strep throat and scarlet fever. It is highly contagious and can spread through contact with saliva, mucus, and other bodily fluids. Symptoms of strep A can range from mild to severe and include sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and body aches. It is essential to seek medical attention if you think you may have strep A, as it can lead to long-term health complications if left untreated. Treatment for strep A consists of antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medications, and preventative measures include good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly. With the proper knowledge and precautions, you can reduce your risk of contracting strep A and its potential complications.
Streptococcal A is a bacterial infection caused by a group of bacteria called “streptococci”. Over 20 species of streptococci can cause illness in humans, but “Streptococcus pyogenes” is the most common.
The bacteria are transmitted through contact with saliva, mucus, or other bodily fluids and are highly contagious among children and adolescents. Although anyone can contract strep A, children and adolescents are at the highest risk due to frequent exposure and less developed immune systems.
Two types of streptococci cause infection in humans – group A and group B. Streptococcal A is the most common bacterial infection in the world and can cause several illnesses, including strep throat, impetigo, cellulitis, and scarlet fever. The disease is more likely to be serious in children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.
The symptoms of strep A can range from mild to severe and can include sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and body aches. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the heart, kidneys, bones, and central nervous system, causing other complications, such as rheumatic heart disease, post-infective glomerulonephritis, and rheumatic fever. Therefore, it is crucial to seek medical attention if you think you may have strep A.
- Sore Throat – The most common symptom of strep A is a sore throat, which can range from mild to severe. The soreness may be accompanied by a burning sensation and difficulty swallowing. A person with a sore throat from strep A may also have a fever and swollen lymph nodes. A sore throat from strep A is typically accompanied by thick and sticky mucus that is difficult to clean and can last up to a few weeks.
- Fever – A fever is not always present in patients with strep A, but it can occur in up to 25% of cases. A fever may range from mild to high and can occur with or without other symptoms. - Swollen Lymph Nodes – Swollen lymph nodes are small, fluid-filled masses that are found throughout the body. They are located in the neck, chest, abdomen, and groin areas and help fight infection. The lymph nodes may become swollen and tender in patients with a strep A infection, especially in the neck and underarm areas.
- Body Aches – Patients with strep A may also experience body aches, particularly in the joints and muscles. Joint pain is typically mild to moderate, but in some cases, it can be severe enough to limit mobility. - Irritability – Children with a strep A infection may be irritable, cranky, and/or feverish.
The best way to treat strep A is to receive antibiotics immediately after the infection is detected. Typically, penicillin is used to treat strep A, but in some cases, other antibiotics may be used.
If you have been diagnosed with strep A, your doctor may also prescribe an anti-fungal medication to treat any secondary infections caused by the bacteria.
- Penicillin - One of the most common antibiotics used to treat strep A, penicillin can be administered orally, intravenously, or intramuscularly.
- Penicillin-Sulphate - Another type of penicillin that is used to treat strep A, it can be either taken orally or injected. - Other Antibiotics - Other antibiotics that can be used to treat strep A include amoxicillin, flucloxacillin, or a combination of amoxicillin and cloxacillin.
If left untreated, the complications of strep A can be serious and can include the following:
- Rheumatic Heart Disease -
Rheumatic heart disease is a severe complication of untreated strep A that can lead to heart failure and heart rhythm abnormalities. It is most common in children and adolescents with untreated strep A infection.
- Post-infective Glomerulonephritis - Post-infective glomerulonephritis is a rare but serious complication of untreated strep A that can lead to kidney failure. It occurs in less than 1% of untreated strep A infections. - Rheumatic Fever - Rheumatic fever is a complication of untreated strep A that can lead to joint inflammation, heart damage, and kidney failure. It occurs in 1 out of every 100 patients with untreated strep A.
The best way to prevent strep A is by practising good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly and thoroughly and covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing. Additionally, you should avoid sharing personal items such as towels, razors, and toothbrushes.
If you have a child at home, it is vital to ensure they are up-to-date with their immunizations. Then, they can significantly reduce the risk of contracting severe bacterial infections like strep A.
To diagnose strep A, a doctor will typically take a swab of the throat, as well as a blood test. If the blood test results show an elevated white blood cell count, it can indicate a bacterial infection, which may be caused by strep A. A throat swab can be used to test the presence of strep A, as well as other types of bacteria. While a throat swab is not always accurate, it can be helpful in cases where a person has recently been treated for strep A and is now experiencing a sore throat again.
If treated early, the prognosis for strep A is generally reasonable. In some cases, however, the infection can be severe and lead to long-term health complications, including rheumatic fever and heart disease.
In summary, streptococcal A, or strep A, is a bacterial infection caused by a group of bacteria called “streptococci”. The bacteria can be transmitted through contact with saliva, mucus, or other bodily fluids and are highly contagious among children and adolescents. The symptoms of strep A can range from mild to severe and include sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and body aches. The best way to treat strep A is to receive antibiotics immediately after the infection is detected. With the proper knowledge and precautions, you can reduce your risk of contracting strep A and its potential complications.